Steve Cooper of Cookshill Fly Tying is “the man” when it comes to natural fly tying materials – I once telephoned him about getting some cdc, he picked up the telephone (a mobile) and said “wait a moment” BANG BANG “I am just out shooting some ducks just now”
I bought some deer hair off him for Comparaduns and Deer Hair Emergers – tying with his good quality deer hair made me realise just what I had been missing – the fur was really nice to work with and made tying with deer hair almost bearable great fun.
I decided to interview Steve so over the last few months he patiently answered some sporadic questions fired at him between nappy changes.
Steve also organises the highly successful British Fly Fair which is on the 7th and 8th November in Stoke on Trent.
Is selling Fly tying materials a full time job?
Retired as a full time secondary science teacher in 2003 – now split time between Cookshill, The British Fly Fair and some supply teaching
The British Fly Fair looks like a job in itself – what exhibitors are you most looking forward to in 2009 ?
Difficult to say – we are very particular about exhibitors ( its not just a free for all ) the emphasis is on quality – the BFFI does not support a bargain bucket mentality so prevalent at other shows. All our exhibitors are fly fishing and fly tying specialists so it would be hard to single out any one set up.
The BFFI is a massive undertaking which relies on the efforts of my family and friends – the real heroes of the show. Also of vital importance are the fly tyers who travel from across the globe to demonstrate.
Do you see the format or itinerary of the fly fair changing over the next few years? For example, in the USA they have the AEG Film Tour which is very popular – http://www.flyfishingfilmtour.com/ Do you think this type of media could be incorporated into the fly fair?
I like the current BFFI format and will keep it similar with a few tweaks along the way.
I think the key thing is to maintain the great atmosphere.
No reason why something along the lines of the US media idea could not be done – as long as someone took it on board ( too high tek for me!!)
So how long have you been fishing?
Since before I can remember – my dad was a keen coarse angler and I fished from being 3 or 4. Spent all my childhood coarse fishing – caught lots of nice fish 2lb Roach, 20lb Pike, 8lb Bream etc etc.
When I was 16 my dad took up fly fishing – I followed – mainly fising the large reservoirs.
You ever fish for coarse fish on the fly?
Not deliberately – something else I need to do!
What is your favourite ? Rivers or lakes ?
Like both but fished lakes more
Now lets talk about your materials – what got you started in selling materials?
Used to tie lots of flies on a semi pro basis when I was a kid 18 +. Also did a fair bit of beating and shooting so I could get loads of pheasant tails etc . Realised what I got myself was way better than you could buy so started selling a few bits and pieces to our club where I was tying instructor. Went from there.
So where do you get most of your materials? I remember phoning you once and you were out shooting – your source most of them yourself?
Anything UK origin I source myself, from Gamedealers, game keepers, pest controllers, shooters etc. I do all the selecting, skinning, packaging etc. This gives me total quality control – hopefully resulting in a better product. I also buy in and import a few items. I do a fair bit of shooting myself and this also contributes a few bits and pieces.
I have all the dyeing custom done for me.
You must get a lot of orders – do you ship worldwide – ever get any strange requests?
Yes get all sorts of weird requests. Especially from tyers of Classic Salmon flies and North Country Spiders. Many are trying to tie flies from over 100 years ago which rely on materials from species which are now strictly protected – obviously it is not legally possible to resource such materials except from old materials collections and old taxidermy specimens. The two spider fly materials I regularly get asked for are Landrail (old name for Corncrake) and Dotterel both of which are now really rare in the UK – but were once more common and were then shot.
So do you have sources for old taxidermy specimens ?
Anywhere you can find them Ebay, Auctions, antiques fairs – usually the best finds you just stumble across.
So do you actively look for hard to get items before you are asked?
Just keep an eye open for the unusual stuff – if you find it their are always people on the waiting list.
Anything strange on your list just now?
Most will never be obtained unless some old collections come available
Got any final words?
Just that I think that flytyers sometimes fail to appreciate natural materials – they are all beautiful in their own right – not just something to use with careless abandon in the pursuit of catching more fish!
I have got to ask you to explain that one Steve – you mean that there is more to materials than catching fish – like the beauty of a nice feather or the softness of fur?
Correct – and they come from living things which are pretty amazing too!
Is there anything you have ever refused to supply?
Not really – as long as its legal
So there ya go – Steve can get you just about any legal fly tying feather you are after – he also puts a lot of hard work into organising the British Fly Fair.
Imagine having Steve as your teacher at school – probably one of the most enjoyable lessons going (between smoking sessions behind the PE block)